BALLACHULISH, Scotland, October 4 (Reuters) – At the windswept summit of Buachaille Etive Mòr, a Scottish peak over 1,020 meters (3,350 feet) above sea level, Nick Gardner, 81, stops to contemplate the craggy peaks, lakes and valleys visible through the drifting clouds.
“It’s so exciting every time I still feel like a little boy,” he said. “I need my hat and gloves, and my windbreaker jacket, but it’s absolutely beautiful. I would be here a lot sooner than in a centrally heated house.”
For Gardner, who moved with his wife Janet from the English suburbs to a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands at the age of 50, mountain climbing has become more than just a childhood dream.
Two years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018, Janet, a former teacher who also suffers from osteoporosis, fell so ill she needed 24-hour care. Gardner was devastated and decided that he needed a challenge to help him cope.
“When it got too much for me to handle, when she went to the hospital and got treated… I just didn’t know what to do. We got used to the company of the other 24 hours. on 24, 7 days a week, for 30 years. And then all of a sudden it’s gone, “he said.
“Doing that escalation allowed me to refocus to a certain extent. I had to find something like this, otherwise I would have had … mental health issues. I know that.”
The task he set for himself would challenge half his age – to climb Scotland’s 282 “Munros”, or mountains over 3,000 feet, in 1,200 days. He’s finished 87 so far. In honor of Janet, he raises funds for the charities Alzheimer Scotland and the Royal Osteoporosis Society.
Becoming familiar with social media as he goes, he records his progress on Facebook and Instagram. Many of the posts on his fundraising webpage, where he raised over 30,000 pounds of a goal of 40,000 pounds, come from people he met on the mountainside.
“I think (this was) the third mountain I have climbed where I was chatting with other climbers and I just mentioned what I was doing for this challenge. And they couldn’t believe it… They were amazed, ” he said.
“Obviously I thought, I have something here. I really have it. And I didn’t realize the potential. And so since then when I see people on the hill, I stop them and j have a little chat with them, tell them what I’m doing. “
Reporting by Natalie Thomas; Written by Alex Richardson; Editing by Janet Lawrence
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